The surname HANLEY was derived from the Gaelic O'hAinle (a name meaning beauty). They were an important Connacht sept whose homeland was in County Roscommon, and where descendants of the sept are still found. They are also widely dispersed in Munster, where a branch established themselves in County Cork. The maritime county of Cork, in Munster, is bounded by the sea on the south-west, the south and the south-east. To the east it has land boundaries with the counties of Waterford and Tipperary, and to the north with Limerick and to the west with Kerry. Anciently the country formed part of the kingdom of Desmond. After the Anglo-Norman Invasion the whole of the present county, save the City of Cork (which had been founded by the Vikings) and its surroundings, was granted in 1177 by Henry II to Anglo-Norman knights who brought over their followers and established a military colony. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames: they came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour.They were a sept who possessed Cinel-Dobhtha, now DoohyHanly, a territory extending along the River Shannon in County Roscommon. Early records of the name mention Tristram de HANLE, who was documented in County Suffolk in the year 1273, and Robertus de HANNELAY of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. John HANDLEIGH of County Dorset, registered at Oxford University in the year 1610.
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